Sunday, 29 April 2007

How to Save on Your Energy Bill...

A very interesting article:

Easy ways to cut your energy bill
By Gerri Willis, CNN

A bill recently introduced in California would ban the sale of energy-hogging incandescent light bulbs by 2012. Aside from changing your light bulbs, there are some other things you can do around the house to save you energy and money.

1: Take an energy audit
Your home isn't very energy efficient if you have less than six inches of insulation in your attic, if your furnace is 10 years or older, or you have lots of windows on the North side and you live in a cold climate, according to the Alliance to Save Energy. But, there are some specific calculations you can make to determine just how energy efficient your home is. Take a free energy audit online at the Department of Energy's Web site. This tool can tell you where your home is leaking energy and what you can do about it.

2: Cut the drafts
The average house loses up to 20 percent of its heat or air-conditioning leakage from air ducts alone, according to Energy Star. Make sure you repair your leaky ducts and seal drafty doors, windows and baseboards. An easy way to figure out where the leaks may be, is to light a candle or some incense near your windows and doors and see where the flame flickers. Reducing drafts in a home could save you up to 30 percent on your utility bill annually.

3: Replace your appliances
Replacing your appliances with Energy Star appliances is another way to benefit your wallet.
First, Energy Star products are intended to exceed energy efficiency levels of other products by 20 to 75 percent. It is estimated that the average household could save $400 a year just by using Energy Star Products. You'll also want to get in touch with your utility company to see what tax incentives and rebates are offered for replacing water-guzzling or power-hogging appliances with eco-friendly ones. To find out more about Energy Star products, go to energystar.gov.

4: Get unplugged
You might not know it, but all those little gadgets you keep plugged in are taking a toll on your electricity bill. You know, those things like your Ipod charger, your cell phone and Blackberry charger. Even keeping the coffee pot plugged in is wasting energy and costing you money. In fact, all these devices make up about 5 percent of your bill! Here's a tip: turn off that computer and unplug these vampire appliances, and you'll be taming the wild energy hog.

5: Think flatscreen
To cut your energy bill, you may also want to consider replacing that bulky computer monitor you have in the home office. A flat panel computer screen uses a third of the electricity of regular computer monitors. The difference is that same as if you leave a 50-watt bulb on all year. And if you're thinking about replacing that big screen TV, think about investing in an LCD - it uses half the energy of a plasma TV.

Saturday, 28 April 2007

Thunderstorm Season Begins!

The first real storm of 2007 rolled in on Thursday night - well, Friday morning, around 0120. There was a long, low rumble in the distance. Apparently there was more after that but I had been on the verge of falling asleep and this was not enough noise to really keep me up. I always feel cheated when storms happen late at night. I so love thunderstorms so it is better for me if they happen during the waking hours. However, sometimes that happens. Some of the worst storms roll in during the wee hours of the night.

Apparently this storm was one of those, but not this far north. Someone who lives maybe 30 miles south of me at work told me that the windows rattled for most of it and there were a couple of peals of thunder that made the floor shake! Now, that's a storm! Good gods.

I have taken some amazing photos of storms, although unless I can capture bolt lightning (which I have, a couple of times - not easy, let me tell you!) it is not much to look at! But to experience. Wow! I have lived through some truly amazing storms. I don't see a lot of supercell storms but I have seen them from both the air and the ground, and they are big scary storms! New Jersey does get some big-ass storms.

The weather has not been at all good for the course, and I hope it gets better. Quite frankly, there is a good balance. We just aren't having that here. We seem to be on the wetter end of life. The last week was horrendous. The opening week of golf was literally rained out - Sunday through Thursday the course was closed. This week had a downpour yesterday, but today was not terrible. Unfortunately, the rest of the week is not looking positive. 40% chance of showers tonight; 20% chance of storms tomorrow, 30% tomorrow night and Monday. None for Tuesday (we hope) but more storms on the horizon for Tuesday night and showers on Wednesday. When does it stop? I'm in a business predicated on the weather!

But... I do like storms!

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

START Snitching!

My gods, this is it! The final straw of how stupid this society has become.

On Sunday, around 0300, there was an attempted rape in Parsippany. The police showed up just as he had the victim's pants off. He's in County lock-up, where he absolutely deserves to be. If no one had gotten onscene, caught this guy and someone had seen it passing by or looking out the window, my gods, I hope - sincerely with every fiber of my being hope - that this person doesn't even think about what he or she has to do. I hope that he or she immediately picks up the phone and calls 9-1-1 and does his or her level best to ID the animal that does this.

The police may have some strange directives and yes, racial profiling is an unfair thing. Plenty of "white" scum out there ready and willing to perpetrate criminal activities. Does it matter what colour you are to say or not say anything? What can every make that acceptable? It's just wrong.

So completely wrong.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

I Fire People, I'm Irish and I Drive an Ambulance

It sounds like a joke, doesn't it? A woman who fires people, is Irish and drives an ambulance walks into a bar...

That's a colleague of mine. He suggested that and it sounded really funny, so it seemed like it was something worth posting. I don't know where it will go, but it does sound like that, doesn't it?

If anyone thinks of anything, feel free to post it!

Saturday, 21 April 2007

Can the Love be Real If the Flowers are Fake?

Hmmm. My take on weddings are much the same. Fake flowers, cheese factor is super-high, tackiness everywhere. What does this actually accomplish? I really don't know. I've been to a million weddings and they just get worse and worse as time goes on. I guess while most people are wrapped up in "showing" everyone else how deep their love is, I'm thinking that many, many couples (especially the women) are missing the point of this. This is sharing a moment of starting a new life with someone but somehow weddings seem to turn into grandstanding!

What is the point of this? And why do men let this happen? Why don't they stand up to the crazy women and say, "Whoa, whoa, what is the big deal? It's just a wedding!" But men seem to be afraid of women planning weddings and don't say anything.

And women! This is the biggest day of your life? Really? Is your life so empty and meaningless that this is the be-all and end-all of everything? Oh, come now. Life should be full of wonderful moments. Full - every single day should bring happiness and living life to the fullest. Living it to the most. Getting a new job, accomplishing something great, getting my EMT certification. Buying the first house. Moving into the first house. Buying the second house. Moving into the second house. Getting my car. Discovering new friends. Firing a rotten person, hiring a great person! Life is loaded with magic moments! My first life saved. The first life lost - oh, yes, living life to the fullest means experiencing and remembering the lows, too. Complete people have that - the good, the bad and the ugly. All of it.

So if your wedding is the only amazing moment in life, you need to really get out of the house and start living life!

Pacific Palisades HS Phone Message

This is the message that the Pacific Palisades High School (California) staff voted unanimously to record on their school telephone answering machine. This is the actual answering machine message for the school. This came about because they implemented a policy requiring students and parents to be responsible for their children's absences and missing homework. The school and teachers are being sued by parents who want their children's failing grades changed to passing grades - even though those children were absent 15-30 times during the semester and did not complete enough schoolwork to pass their classes.

The outgoing message:

"Hello! You have reached the automated answering service of your school. In order to assist you in connecting to the right staff member, please listen to all the options before making a selection:

* To lie about why your child is absent - Press 1

* To make excuses for why your child did not do his work- Press 2

* To complain about what we do - Press 3

* To swear at staff members - Press 4

* To ask why you didn't get information that was already enclosed in your newsletter and several flyers mailed to you - Press 5

* If you want us to raise your child - Press 6

* If you want to reach out and touch, slap or hit someone -Press 7

* To request another teacher, for the third time this year -Press 8

* To complain about bus transportation - Press 9

* To complain about school lunches - Press 0

* If you realize this is the real world and your child must be accountable and responsible for his/her own behavior, class work, homework and that it's not the teachers' fault for your child's lack of effort: Hang up and have a nice day!

*If you want this in Spanish, you must be in the wrong country."

The... Game?

I get a lot of interesting things in my e-mail...

Game on is described like this:

Describe me in one word.... just one single word. Send it to me and to me only. Then send this original message to all your friends and see how many strange and interesting things they say about you. This should be fun!!

Here's how:

1. Hit the reply key and send me my one word.
2. Then come back to this message, and forward it to your friends (including me) and see what people say about you when limited to one word.

The Game is On!

Sex, Drugs & Rock 'n' Roll

OK. The "Sex" is fine. Change the "Rock 'n' Roll" to "Music" and then drop the drugs. Why ruin the sex and music?

Having dealt with drugs (of which alcohol is one), I must say that it certainly does not appear to be all that and a bag of chips. I have had two drunks and a third still running loose to deal with. I don't want to see any more. No more boozers, please. Not at home, not at work, not on the rig, not anywhere. Where do people get the idea that this is a good road to go down? How do people profess to not be alcoholics, they just love wine? There is being a wine connesiuer (sp?) and then there is loving your wine. I get (sort of) the wine connesuiers. I do not get people drinking it to get hammered! Besides, if you are going to down spirits in an effort to make your life more sunny (how stupid are YOU?) just drink any old crap and go for the disgustingly strong stuff... you'll get there faster and not waste so much money doing it...

I know, ever the pragmatist.

Well. I don't get it. I have seen it all - alcohol, cocaine, marijuana (clearly mixed with other illegal or at least illicit things - Maui Wowie is not enough to really warrant calling us), crack, heroin, prescription and not your prescription drugs, lithium, percocet, morphine (which is what herion dilutes into in the blood stream), lorazipam, the list is endless. The really hardcore alkies (and I dealt with one last week that is heading down this road) will turn to drinking Isopropyl Rubbing alcohol or methyl alcohol when they cannot get their hands on the ethyl alcohol that is meant for human consumption. I don't get it. I just don't.

Think about this: ethyl alcohol, also called ethanol, is a solvent. Yes, there is a format made for consumption (the real idea is that you consume it in very controlled quantities), but the same stuff also produces varnishes, lacquers, etc. Sounds healthy, right? When I find them down methynol and isopropyl alcohol, I really want to slap them... and say, "You do realise that this is not gonna do what you're thinking it's gonna do!" Morons. People are morons. And they don't learn from history. They don't learn from others. They aren't figuring it out from me, for damn sure, but what would make think that this would work?

Let's ignore for the moment that I think alcohol - all alcohol - tastes like medicine (I don't at all care for the taste of medication). Let's ignore that hang overs don't sound like fun. Let's ignore that I will do anything under the sun to avoid vomiting. So what does this leave? I used to listen to the problems of an alcoholic a lot. He threw up in my bathroom a couple of times and I didn't believe him a bit when he said he does that when he's nervous. That is bullshit. That's definitely an "I-tied-one-too-many-on-last-night" sign! And a bad one. And the eyes. Oh, boy. Even when I was told there was no more alcohol, the eyes always gave it away. Well. A frequent flier in the making. This is someone who has a long, ugly journey to make and may end up dead in ditch before reaching a better destination.

I've got lots of them, though. My 81-year-old drunken woman, the 40-something heavy-duty vodka drinking woman, the guy who likes to call us to take him to rehab (three times now I've taken him... clearly not working...), the list just is endless. It is staggering.

So I will take the sex, definitely - good sex only, please. I'll always have the music - rock 'n' roll is some of it, sure, but I want the rest of it, too. But I need nothing from the drugs! I can definitely make my own fun.

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Cop versus Police Officer

Someone I know told me a couple of days ago that the difference between a cop and a police officer is that a cop will grab you, kiss you and give you the ride of your life. A police officer will ask permission.

Wow...

Wow!

That is the sexiest thing I have ever heard!

Sunday, 8 April 2007

A League of Our Own

Men and women are not equal.

My husband said that last night and he is right. 100% correct. We have the right to do things, to be things, to share in the things that men do. That's fine. I am all for women and men having all of the same opportunities and rights. But to say that we are equal? No, that is not right.

Men and women certainly are not equal physically and anyone who says that we are in an overall sense would be full of it. Men are generally bigger, taller, bulkier, stronger humans than are women. To say anything else would be false. It would patently be wrong to do that, to say that. Women are smaller, shorter, not as strong. We aso have higher pain thresholds than men. Men can do heavy lifting, women can do detail-oriented, dexterity intensive work.

OK, so physically we are different (besides the really obvious things like gender-specific body parts). Now that we have gotten that out of the way, let's look at the other things.

How about how our brains work? Men in general have excellent spacial relationships, good mathematics skills, strong distance understanding. Women are strong in building relationships, good dialogue skills and excellent word skills. Men are curt and short and competitive, women are detailed and communicative and understanding. Our strengths compliment each other. Men are weak where we are strong and vica versa. Are we entitled to the same things? Yes. Are we equal?

No.

However, the error is not so much in the realisation that we are not equal, but the way we handle things. Women, as a whole, wear their emotions on the outside and are more open about their feelings and thoughts. Men tend to keep that side more private and be more stoic. That isn't good or bad, it just is what it is. The problem is that some moron came to the misguided conclusion that this makes us weaker. Women are not weaker for showing emotion. They are stronger for it. And much healthier. Men need to show this more.

And so for most cultures, women have to fight for what should be a given without question. In many places, we are paid less. (I have to admit with great pride that despite working for a business that is really a men's area, the Club I work for does not do this. The men and women are paid for the jobs they do and that is it. No inequality there. But I did work for a company years ago that clearly did this. And it was just wrong.

So there you have it.

Wondering what brought that on? I'm watching a movie that I adore, called A League of Their Own, with quite the all star cast in it. A lot of the women in it have gone on to do even more. It's funy, watching older movies, who you see in them and realise that you have seen them in this, this and this movie as well. OK, well, Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Rosie O'Donnell and Madonna we all know and we all knew them then (this came out in 1992). But the rest we did not, not really. Bitty Shramm went on to become Mr. Adrian Monk's assistant in the first three or four (I think) seasons of Monk. The one woman in this was in Doc Hollywood, which was on just a couple of weeks ago if that. Another one I know from something else, but I can't think what it is that I know her from. Lori Petty was in Tank Girl and a whole host of other movies. There are a whole bunch of other good actors and actresses in this as well. But what is really telling about this movie is the time it is set in and the premise.

In the 1940s, with all the men off to war, a lot of things happened in America that suddenly made it time for a change. Sure, there was a lot of effort made to make life go back to what it was prior to that, but while it happened for a short time, it did not last. Slowly the tide of things changed and things began to change and now we are in a totally different age.

Anyway, with so many men off to war and the factories and the stores and the sports all stripped of their employees, the people here had to figure out how to keep businesses and morale things going. Hence, Rosie the Riveter, and so many new programs to get women out of the kitchens and into the factories, the workplaces, the sports. And one program was to get baseball happening. So there were women's baseball leagues and they were big for the time of the war. To come into things then as a woman was tough. The men all refered to them as "girls". There was a very low turnout for games and such. Women were very much harassed in the workplace, and put up with a lot of crap that no one should have to put up with. And what happened when the war was over? Suddenly it was time for Rosie to give back her riveter, for the women to hang up their gloves and go back to the kitchen. You know that this cannot have been easy for a lot of women.

The tax laws were re-written in the late 40s to get women out of the workplace as well. Now they are so unfavourable to married couples with two incomes, it is rediculous. Someone should have re-written them again in the 1970s, when it became clear that women would have to enter the workforce if families wanted to stay afloat. And now in 2007, most families have both parents working. There are a lot of things that are being re-examined, such as the length of the school year and the tax laws and how kids have to be placed with both parents working.

I'm sorry - what was that about women in the workplace?

Men and women are not equal. But they are certainly entitled to the same treatment.

This Week in People

Yes, well, I know it doesn't really sound like my sort of reading material and mostly it is not, but I get People Magazine and read it. Mostly I tune out the stuff about famous people and who they are dating (clearly there is something about money and fame that severely clouds general judgment). I like to pay more attention to the stuff with regular people or those few famous and/or wealthy people that actually have a good head on his or her shoulders.

So this week's issue had some interesting tidbits... this is the publication dated 16 April (who knows why publications do that), with a heavy-set Valerie Bertinelli on the cover. Apparently she would like to publicly lose weight and they clearly put her size 14 body (which really is not that horrendous - I'm a size 18) in the worst possible shirt ever, to make her look really overweight. To me, this is quite transparent, but there are a lot of readers at the more common denominator level who will buy into the idea that she is that heavy...

There is a lot of fluff in the opening few pages, but there was one photograph of Gwyneth Paltrow and her daughter with Chris Martin - named Apple. This is a constant source of amazement to me as it is just criminal in my mind to name your kids something that will haunt them all their childhood and possibly their adult life, too. As if it is not hard enough to be a kid. Why make it that much more difficult?

Britney Spears - this is a woman who just underlines why famous people are such an incredible source of disappointment. This is someone who at one time was touted as being a wonderful role model for kids. (Of course, kids loved the Spice Girls, too - yikes!) Now she is a mother of two kids with a guy who is a known philanderer and clearly is just spreading the sperm around without thinking this through. He is an idiot. And she married him! And then she had two kids (and what a model - ha, ha - parent she turned out to be! Clearly owning a brain is not a prerequisite to having children).

There is an article in here called OVERBOARD! about two kids on a spring-break cruise that fell overboard and were successfully rescued from the water! The captain is the hero althought the article focussed more on the kids who went in the drink. It was a good thing, though and quite a success story. I loved it. Imagine that - they were in the water for four to five hours! Now, it was like bathwater - around 70 degrees - but the girl who went over hit the water in such a way that she broke a couple of ribs and a lung contusion. The guy only had some minor jellyfish stings. (He definitely made out better than she did!). Interesting!

There is a one page article about how a woman was saved by her two-year-old, 75lb golden retriever who heard her choking, knocked her down and gave her the Heimlich Manoeuver to get the piece out of her throat. Whether or not he really knew what he was doing is debateable, but he did it none-the-less and she is the better (which is to say alive) for it. I loved that, too.

And then there is My Life in Pictures... RICHARD GERE. Normally, again, most famous people are not all that and a bag of chips but I really do like Richard Gere. He has warm, friendly, intelligent eyes. He is a good-looking man but unpreposessing enough that he is not sort of "loud", if you know what I mean. But the first photo of him is an old one with him standing in front of an old car, with his hands behind his head as though he'd run them through his hair, wearing a sleeveless t-shirt, a pair of jeans and boots. YOWZA! I don't even mind that there is a cigarette hanging out of his mouth (normally there is nothing more unappealing than a smoker!). He has big biceps and a hell of a great figure! Very masculine. I love it. I may take this into work to put on the board behind me.

(I know I started off by saying I don't care much for the famous, but it seems that there are a lot of things to say about them this week anyway...)

Bono, someone for whom I have great affection and respect, has been made an honorary British knight. The signifigance and irony is not lost on me. However, because he is Irish and not a person originating from Great Britain or any of its owned lands, he cannot be called Sir Bono. So he joked, "You have permission to call me anything you want except Sir, all right? Lord of lords, your demigodness, that'll do." I really like that man so much!

Some designer's granddaughter (whose mother is the tackiest thing to walk the earth) has anorexia nervosa and really looks like a mummy, but without the wrappings and fun stuff to cover up the skeleton She just has pallid skin stretched over bones. Having seen anorexia up close a few times (the last time was one of our members on the squad), it is not a pretty thing. How anyone with this is incapable of seeing it is a mystery to me, but then, my struggle with weight is the opposite and more common battle. Still... I would rather be me and overweight than constantly living with one foot in the grave because I look like a victim of a German concentration camp.

And that concludes this week in People...!

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Babies & Brain Toys

More good reading! (I've long wondered about this stuff...)

"By Greg Toppo

USA TODAY Tue Apr 3, 8:21 AM ET

Parents fork over billions of dollars for CDs, DVDs, toys and other products that promise to make their babies smarter - and governments invest in programs to maximize children's brain development from birth through age 3. But many efforts to build "brighter babies" are doomed to failure because they are built on misinterpretations and misapplications of brain research, a report says.

"While neural connections in babies' brains grow rapidly in the early years, adults can't make newborns smarter or more successful by having them listen to Beethoven or play with Einstein-inspired blocks," says Sara Mead, a senior policy analyst with Education Sector, a centrist Washington think tank.

That a baby's first three years are key for brain development is beyond dispute; scientists know that babies' brains change rapidly, growing and pruning synapses. But Mead says a few early childhood advocates have misinterpreted or misused research to suggest that if parents don't sufficiently stimulate children's brains before age 3, they'll do irreparable harm. There is no evidence that the first three years "are a singular window for growth that slams shut once children turn 3," Mead says.

She says researchers don't know enough about brain growth to say whether educational toys or lessons help: We are "far from knowing how to build a better brain."

But that hasn't stopped parents from spending billions on infant brain-building products. In 2005, the market was $2.5 billion, according to Fortune.

It also hasn't stopped lawmakers from getting involved. In 1998, Georgia Gov. Zell Miller persuaded hospitals to send home classical music CDs with every newborn. Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt persuaded lawmakers last year to spend $2 million to support Parents as Teachers, a non-profit that publishes a curriculum for children as young as newborns.

Such efforts teach parents helpful skills, says Jonathan Plucker, professor of cognitive science at Indiana University. "People are starting to almost universally acknowledge that those years are critically important."
But there's no evidence that playing your baby a Mozart CD or sitting her down in front of a Baby Einstein DVD makes a difference, he says. Research suggests stimulation is essential for early brain development, but "we don't know nearly enough to be applying it."

Officials from Baby Einstein and The Smart Baby did not respond to interview requests.

Tammy Mann, a clinical psychologist and deputy director of Zero to Three, an early-childhood advocacy group, agrees that it's an overstatement of brain research to say we can make babies smarter. But she says evidence shows that good, intensive programs, such as Early Head Start, which was developed for at-risk infants, toddlers and preschoolers, yield solid, cost-effective results.

"There is something to say about investing earlier when you're talking about children who are in particularly high-risk situations," she says.'

Tequila and Salt

Vana sent this to me. I loved it...

"This should probably be taped to your bathroom mirror where one could read it every day. You may not realize it, but it's 100% true.

1. There are at least two people in this world that you would die for.

2. At least 15 people in this world love you in some way.

3. The only reason anyone would ever hate you is because they want to be just like you.

4. A smile from you can bring happiness to anyone, even if they don't like you.

5. Every night, SOMEONE thinks about you before they go to sleep.

6. You mean the world to someone.

7. You are special and unique.

8. Someone that you don't even know exists loves you.

9. When you make the biggest mistake ever, something good comes from it.

10. When you think the world has turned its back on you take another look.

11. Always remember the compliments you received. Forget about the rude remarks.

And always remember, when life hands you lemons, ask for tequila and salt and call me over! Good friends are like stars. You don't always see them, but you know they are always there.

"Whenever life closes one door he always opens another, even though sometimes it's Hell in the hallway"

I would rather have one rose and a kind word from a friend while I'm here than a whole truck load when I'm gone."

A Good Finance Article

Gods know, I get all sorts of unsolicited advice from Luis and (of all people) my mother. So here I am reading (and spreading) an article about finances!

"What Debit Card Companies Don't Tell You
by David Bach


Posted on Wednesday, March 21, 2007, 12:00AM

My last column, "What Credit Card companies Don't Want You to Know," received an overwhelmingly positive response, with close to 4,000 comments posted in a matter of hours. It's exciting to see so many Yahoo! Finance readers taking an active role by posting feedback and suggestions.

One reader named Carol wrote, "I do not use credit cards because like a lot of others I got into a lot of trouble using them. After digging myself out, I cut them up and now I only use cash or my debit (bank account) card with a MasterCard logo."
A Debit Card Boom
I can relate. I also switched to a debit card after getting myself deep into credit card debt when I was in college. By using only my debit card, I became more disciplined about spending. Carol and I aren't alone: Debit card use today is at an all-time high. You may be surprised to know that consumers are actually using debit cards more often than credit cards now. In fact, according to market research firm Mintel, debit card use surpassed a trillion dollars last year.

The Benefits of Debit Cards
Using a debit card for purchases is convenient, and it keeps you out of debt. After all, you can't spend what you don't have in your account. There's also no bill to worry about -- which means no interest, no late fee, no over-the-limit fee, no annual fee, and so on. Make a purchase and the money comes directly out of your bank account. What could be simpler?

But the same things that make a debit card so simple to use is also what makes it so risky. When your debit card information is compromised, thieves have direct access to your bank account.

Seven Tips for Debit Card Use
Obviously, it's important to understand the risks of debit card use, and how to protect yourself from those risks. Here are seven tips you need to keep in mind about debit cards:

1. Know your debit card's liability policy.
Many banks advertise that they offer "zero liability" debit cards. This means that if an unauthorized charge is made on your card and the transaction is signed for, you are not liable for the fraudulent purchase -- much like if you were to use a credit card. However, it's really important to understand that in most cases, this zero-liability policy only applies to signature-based transactions when you're using a debit card with the Visa or MasterCard logo.
This means that if an unauthorized purchase is made using your debit card with your personal identification number (PIN), in most cases the zero-liability policy won't apply. What's more, the zero-liability policy for debit cards is just that -- a policy, not a federal law. Ultimately, then, liability for fraudulent transactions are subject to review by the bank that issued the card. That said, it's possible that your bank offers a zero-liability policy even on PIN transactions, although very few do. Check with your bank.

2. Lose your PIN, lose your money.
Because PIN-based debit card transactions (regulated by the Electronic Funds Transfer Act) generally don't carry the same protection as signature-based debit card transactions (regulated by the Truth in Lending Act), you want to do everything possible to safeguard that PIN. If your debit card information is stolen along with your PIN and you don't notify your bank right away, your entire bank account could potentially be wiped out.

According to the law that governs electronic fund transfers, in order to limit your liability you must report suspicious debit card use for PIN-based transactions to your bank within two business days -- which will only put you on the hook for $50. Losses reported after two days will increase your liability to $500.
That's not all -- if you report unauthorized use of your debit card after 60 days from the time you received your statement, the bank doesn't have to reimburse you at all. In fact, you might even be liable for the maximum overdraft line of credit they extended to you. It's possible that your bank could have a greater protection policy than what the law requires; check to make sure you know what yours is.

3. It's easier than you think to have your debit card information stolen.
Your physical debit card doesn't need to be stolen out of your wallet or lost in the mall parking lot in order for your information to be compromised. This month, the Wall Street Journal ran an article on an increasingly common debit card scam.

In this scam, criminals attach "skimmers" to the card-swiping devices at grocery stores, gas stations, and even banks. Undetected by consumers, these skimmers copy debit card numbers -- including PINs -- that are entered. Once the skimmer is retrieved by the criminal, the information is sold or used to create fake debit cards. (Actually, this scam applies to both credit and debit cards. However, thieves prefer to steal debit card information since credit cards are monitored more closely by banks.)

So be on the look out for physical tampering at your ATM or checkout line, which could indicate that a skimming device is present. Don't use unbranded ATMs, either -- the kind you find in convenience stores or gas stations. Also be aware of people lurking too closely at ATMs, or even for hidden cameras when you're entering your PIN. Use your hand to shield the numbers you're entering on the keypad.

4. Check your bank statement online every day.
Does that sound extreme? Trust me, it's not. While you're online checking email every day, take two minutes to log on to your bank's web site (from a secure computer, of course) and pull up your current statement. Glance over your recent transactions and make sure they're all legitimate. If you see anything suspicious, call your bank immediately. Don't wait for your paper statement in the mail. By then it might be too late.
5. Don't let your debit card out of your sight.
Make sure all your debit transactions are handled without the card being taken out of your line of sight. Once you take your eye off the card, anyone who handles it has the opportunity to steal the card information.
6. Check your credit report regularly.
If you suspect that your debit card information has been compromised, report it to the credit bureaus right away. Order a copy of your credit report and monitor it regularly. For a (genuinely) free credit report, go to AnnualCreditReport.com. They offer a free credit report once every 12 months from each of the three nationwide consumer credit reporting companies, in accordance with the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act.

7. Know when not to use your debit card.
There are certain situations in which it simply makes sense to use your credit card instead of your debit card. If you're making a "sight unseen" purchase over the Internet, for example, you have more recourse with a credit card if the item arrives in poor condition or not at all.

Personally, I never use a debit card for online purchases. It's always much more difficult to have money returned to your bank account than to dispute a charge on your credit card statement. Finally, if you can avoid it, don't use a debit card when paying for a hotel stay, car rental, or even at the gas pump. When you do, banks put a block on a certain amount of money in your account until the entire transaction is complete and posted -- which could take days. In the meantime, your money is tied up and you won't be able to access it, which could lead to fees being incurred for an overdrawn account.

When using a credit card in these situations, be sure to pay the balance in full as soon as your bill arrives."

What is Important

Too many people put off something that brings them joy just because they haven't thought about it, don't have it on their schedule, didn't know it was coming or are too rigid to depart from their routine. I got to thinking one day about all those women on the Titanic who passed up dessert at dinner that fateful night in an effort to cut back. From then on, I’ve tried to be a little more flexible.

How many women out there will eat at home because their husband didn't suggest going out to dinner until after something had been thawed? Does the word “refrigeration" means nothing to you?

How often have your kids dropped in to talk and sat in silence while you watched 'Jeopardy' on television?

I cannot count the times I called my sister and said, "How about going to lunch in a half hour?" She would gas up and stammer, "I can't. I have clothes in the dryer. My hair is dirty. I wish I had known yesterday, I had a late breakfast, it looks like rain." And my personal favorite: "It's Monday." She died a few years ago. We never did have lunch together.

Because Americans cram so much into their lives, we tend to schedule our headaches. We live on a sparse diet of promises we make to ourselves when all the conditions are perfect!

We'll go back and visit the grandparents when we get Steve toilet-trained. We'll entertain when we replace the living-room carpet. We'll go on a second honeymoon when we get two more kids out of college.

Life has a way of accelerating as we get older. The days get shorter, and the list of promises to ourselves gets longer. One morning, we awaken, and all we have to show for our lives is a litany of "I’m going to," "I plan on," and "Someday, when things are settled down a bit."

When anyone calls my 'seize the moment' friend, she is open to adventure and available for trips. She keeps an open mind on new ideas. Her enthusiasm for life is contagious. You talk with her for five minutes, and you're ready to trade your bad feet for a pair of Rollerblades and skip an elevator for a bungee cord.

My lips have not touched ice cream in 10 years. I love ice cream. It's just that I might as well apply it directly to my stomach with a spatula and eliminate the digestive process. The other day, I stopped the car and bought a triple-decker. If my car had hit an iceberg on the way home, I would have died happy.

Now...go on and have a nice day. Do something you WANT to...not something on your SHOULD DO list. If you were going to die soon and had only one phone call you could make, who would you call and what would you say? And why are you waiting?

Have you ever watched kids playing on a merry go round or listened to the rain lapping on the ground? Ever followed a butterfly’s erratic flight or gazed at the sun into the fading night? Do you run through each day on the fly? When you ask "How are you” do you hear the reply?

When the day is done, do you lie in your bed with the next hundred chores running through your head? Ever told your child, "We'll do it tomorrow" And in your haste, not see his sorrow? Ever lost touch? Let a good friendship die? Just call to say "Hi"?

When you worry and hurry through your day, it is like an unopened gift...Thrown away...Life is not a race. Take it slower. Hear the music before the song is over.
This is how I try to live. Hear the music, smell the odors (good or bad), see the littlest things, feel joy at every moment. I had five calls on Saturday and one woman was this close to dying and the 91-year-old man knew he was dying. She laughed and smiled as we left; he smiled and was reassured and reassuring during the ride to the hospital. People who lived and know how to live and keep living up to their possibly final moments.
What else is there?

Beauty and the Geek

This is it - the full-stop in unbelievable television viewing. I hate to admit, I watch this. It is the living end of stupid, but there is something fascinating about it.

I would rather be me - the overweight, not pretty person that I am - who is happy, enjoys life and is at least semi-intelligent, than be a beauty. These women are pretty to stunning, but they are almost all abysmally stupid. And no, I am not being cruel and I do not mean ignorant. Just as I said it. They are stupid. Maybe one of them is hiding a brain, but honestly, if one is, she deserves an Emmy. These women are vacuous, self-centered and shallow. It is frightening how simple these women are! And capricious. Some of them learn that being a stunning looking guy is not all there is. But a lot of them come away having not learned anything. But then, how capable would they be?

I'm a geek (no one's going to mistake me for a man anytime soon. I'm fat, but I'm clearly and distinctly shaped like a woman) - I was able to answer almost all of the aeronautics questions that were asked in the one episode last season where the women had to go tours in the AeroSpace museum in the Smithsonian. I could give that tour with my eyes closed. These women were appalling. One said something about us finding life on Mars! Ouch... (She meant intelligent life, no less!)

Oddly enough, none of the women are stunning. Some are pretty, but none of them are truly incredible. I wonder if it will return next season and what the contestants will be like. In last season a woman named Cece made it to the last of two couples. I liked her partner, but she was awful. Not only was she not pretty, incredibly shallow and completely self-absorbed, but she was cruel and clearly in it for herself and only herself. She learned nothing. To make it worth putting up with this winner, however, the show was designed that in the last episode, the couples would not have to just answer questions about their partner, but they also had to see all the other couples who were eliminated from the show, and they had vote for the couple that they wanted to see win. Cece and her partner, Nate, only got two votes. Everyone else went with the other couple. They all liked and apologised to Nate, but they all really disliked Cece.

I was delighted. And totally unsurprised - she made her bed, and then absolutely got to lay in it!

Maybe she wasn't as dumb as a week-old box of rocks... but I am betting she was. And I am sure she is completely unchanged - or more bitter, more cruel. Who knows. She has faded back into total anonymity, as she was fated to do.

I guess I would not mind being someone who is pretty, is aesthetically attractive. But if I had to trade in my brain to be more attractive, I would not do it (unless I somehow got a better brain out of the deal and got to be more attractive!) - I will remain the ugly but happy and smiling and confident and intelligent person that I am. My mother tells me I'm her hero. People are amazed at my hobbies and my vast store of completely useless knowledge. I love it. I would not be able to give being me up.

It's good to be me! But it is what I make of it.

Sunday, 1 April 2007

A Saturday Shift with an Almost-Full Moon

The time approaching the full moon can be as insane as the time of the full moon. Considering that the moon is truly full for only a moment before beginning its waning journey through the sky, this is not saying something surprising, but most people think that the moon is full for the whole day/night. In actuality the moon will be full some time tomorrow night.

That did not change last night.

Our first call went out at 1920, a female with low magnesium. What the hell that meant, I did not know. That was a first for me. I have not been trained to recognise that nor have I heard of it on my own. Well, OK, that doesn't mean that this is not the case. But there was more to that situation, than meets the eye... I called it in to St. Clares as a low magnesium, possible PES (psych) call. I had no way of knowing the patient was not potentially PES and she was quite high-strung and certainly presented like a psych patient.

We were out with her until around 2020, and then when we got to the squad house and finished the call sheet, we heard District 5 go to a CO alarm in Rutgers Village. As per the police standards, we are supposed to be blown out to do standby for any fire call. We waited to see if the police would blow us out - that is our area, not 65's. It was ten minutes after that when we heard our tones go out. We loaded into the rig, and had just started it when District 5 called Dsipatch and told them to cancel us. OK! That is credit for an easy call.

We dispersed and went home again. It was 2103 when we got the third call, a 91-year-old male with difficulty breathing. When I came in, he was in the bathroom trying to go, but to no avail. He had swallowed enough laxative and administered enough enemas that he could blow at any minute. (I'm completely relieved to say he didn't.) He has advanced CHF and swollen legs (up past the knee) and a distended belly. He was not happy although he was a very nice, very pleasant patient, and I really liked him. I also really like Mike Gast, one of the paramedics who came with us. (The other paramedic was really nice but I don't know him. I haven't seen him before.) We took our patient to the hospital and I have a bad feeling he is on his way out. But he knew it, too. No one would be surprised. But he was very likable.

We finally got in from that and I hung out in the sunroom until around 2345 and finally went to bed. It was 0138 when the next call came out, for a diebetic emergency. We ran to that house and yes, that was a patient in severe distress. We were getting ready to load and go when David and... and... oh, crud, I forgot his name... the other paramedic I really, really like as much as David (they are both really completely wonderful, cheerful, very capable but also reassuring and friendly people). They showed up, banged in some sugar into the IV line they set up and she came 'round very quickly and - as usual - she signed off. It was an interesting call. Diabetics with very high sugar go to the hospital. Always. We really don't have anything that will lower sugar. But when a patient has super-low blood sugar (in this case, 32 - normal is between 88 and 120), getting sugar into the patient's system and monitoring the person is really what needs to be done. The patient in this case wasn't just out of it, she was unconscious and foaming at the mouth after vomiting all over. We were out there until around 0245.

It was 0257 when we were banged out for a drunk male who is sick in Montville. We were both looking a little ragged, but I hadn't fallen asleep yet and I know Bob hadn't, either. We got in and I was driving down North Beverwyck when Montville canceled. We were a little put off. We end up in Montville all the time, and we were up and prepared to take the drunk male to the hospital. (If you get me out of bed at some hideous hour because you can't control your drinking, you are going to the hospital! Sort of an "if I suffer, you suffer" sort of thing. Sometimes it works.)

We turned around and headed back to the squad house. We still get credit for the call, so it was an easy run sheet to fill out.

I was happy - I did all the driving for every call except for taking the two patients to St. Clares - Bob does that driving so that I am the senior EMT in the back. I managed to do full work-ups on all of my patients and got in a lot of practice with lung sounds, blood pressures and checking pupils. My pateints were all completely different and diverse - no commonalities. An good night. And no one died under our care. And we managed to not deal with the one drunk we might have had.

Another Saturday night with an almost full moon in Parsippany.